Nick Carver Photography Blog

Photography Tips, Tutorials, & Videos

CONTACT
 

Recommended Apps: “Constitution”

First off, let me start by wishing all of my American readers a 

Happy Independence Day!

Never forget that this day is to celebrate the birth of our great nation
and the courageous efforts of our forefathers to form this land.
Be grateful for all the countless Americans who have fought to protect it. 

"Constitution" App for iPhone and iPadApp: Constitution
Price: Free (download)

I normally just stick to photography matters here on my blog, but I thought I'd break the mold a bit in honor of this holiday.

Regardless of your political affiliation, your heritage, your religion, or your personal beliefs, I believe it is every American's duty and right to read the Constitution of the United States. At the very least, every American should read the Bill of Rights. The "ye olde" style of writing can make it a bit of a difficult read, but it's worth the effort to read, first hand, the most important document in the United States.

If you're anything like me, you may find it hard to fit in a designated "sit down and read the Constitution" time amongst your busy schedule. But I find that I'm more likely to get through a book or article if it just happens to be in front of me when I'm sitting down to eat or killing some time in a dental office waiting room.

This is where the app simply titled "Constitution" saves the day. It's a free app for the iPhone and iPad that contains the entire Constitution broken down by Articles and Amendments. It even has brief bios of all the signers and an interesting diagram that labels the entire cast of characters in the famous painting "Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States" by Howard Chandler Christy.

"Constitution" App for iPhone and iPad"Constitution" App for iPhone and iPad
With the Constitution in your pocket anywhere you go, you can start making your way through it anytime you need to kill a few minutes. This isn't a real flashy app and it doesn't have a ton of cool features, but it's free and it contains the Constitution. What more do you need?

So get to downloadin' and then get to readin'. See what makes this country so great. And have a happy 4th.

What Lens Should I Buy Next?

Canon's Insanely Extensive Lineup of Lenses

Here's a common question I get in my inbox: "What lens should I buy next?"

It's something we've probably all wondered at some point in our photographic lives (myself included), so I thought I'd write up a short article here detailing my answer. But before I go into my thoughts on this query, I can't help but point out the peculiarity of it.

This question puts the cart before the horse. It asks what lens to buy next before asking "do I need to buy a new lens?" There's an assumption that you must need some new, different lens...of some sort...probably. It's almost making the statement that there is always another lens to buy. But remember that these are lenses, not shoes. They are advanced, complex, expensive instruments that will last you a long time. They are more of an investment than a purchase. So, before you ask what lens you should buy next, ask yourself if you need to buy another lens.

But how do you know if you need to buy another lens? After all, you haven't tried each one...

Well, my answer to the question in question (read that again, it makes sense) is the same answer I give everybody: "Your shooting will reveal to you what new equipment you need." What I mean by that is that as you shoot, you will quickly find out what lens you need based on what barriers you hit with your current equipment.

For instance:

  • If you find yourself always wishing you could zoom in closer because you can't get close enough to the action, then you need a longer zoom (read my recommendations here).
  • If you find yourself always moving backwards trying to pull in more of the scene, then you should consider a wide-angle lens (read my recommendations here).
  • If you find yourself always wishing you could focus on subjects closer to the lens, then you need a macro.
  • If you find yourself always wishing you could get blurrier backgrounds, then you need a lens with a wider maximum aperture...but that's assuming you already know how to use the aperture like the back of your hand and that you truly are getting the most out of your current lens.

So really, only look at buying new equipment if you're unable to achieve the pictures you want with the lenses you currently have. But let me qualify that statement in a big, BIG way: you have to be certain that you aren't able to achieve the pictures you want because of the lenses, and not because of your shoddy technique or lack of knowledge. Because if you're not fully trained in your current equipment and you don't know shutter speed, aperture and ISO like the back of your hand, then how can you be sure that you just aren't getting the full use out of your current equipment? You have to completely rule out user error, user incompetence, and user-desire-to-just-buy-a-new-toy-because-it's-fun-and-I-hope-that-will-make-my-pictures-look-how-I-want.

This is why amateur photographers get GAS - that's "Gear Acquisition Syndrome." I had a bad case of it for years. But new gear won't make your pictures better. Better technique will.

Just as an example, I've had a lot of people say to me that the kit lens that came with their camera is poor quality and their pictures are soft as a result - and they are certain of this fact. In all my 1500+ hours of teaching and helping students troubleshoot photos that are blurry, lack clarity and appear "soft", the lens has never been the issue. Never. Not once. It's been camera shake, too slow of a shutter speed, poor aperture selection, poor tripod technique, poor light, dirty filters and/or dirty lenses. But it's never been the lens quality.

Now I'm not going to say that certain lenses won't result in better pictures, but in order for a lens to result in better pictures, you must know how to use it to its fullest potential. Just like a 16-year-old brand new driver won't drive any better in a $200,000 Ferrari than in a $2000 Tercel, an amateur photographer won't get any better pictures with a $2500 lens than a $150 lens.

So don't be a 16-year-old in a Ferrari and don't get GAS. Buy equipment when you truly need it, not because you want it.

Recommended Apps: “Sol”

I thought I'd start a new series of blog posts showcasing my favorite smartphone/tablet apps beneficial to photographers. These apps will revolve primarily around the iOS iPhone and iPad platform but they may also be available for Android. Enjoy...

"Sol" App for iPhone and iPadApp: Sol
Price: $0.99 (buy)

For outdoor photographers, knowing the time of sunrise and sunset is vital for timing your shots. That's where "Sol" comes in.

"Sol" is a simple, clean app that shows the times of dawn, sunrise, sunset and dusk for virtually anywhere on Earth. Along with the exact times of these events, "Sol" also visually represents these times on a clock-like illustration. The hand sweeps around the clock as the day progresses with gray areas indicating daylight, light blue areas indicating dawn/dusk, and a dark blue area indicating nighttime.

"Sol" App for iPhone and iPad

It's really great having the visual representation of sunrise, sunset, and especially, the duration of dawn/dusk. This helps in quickly estimating how much time you have before the light is gone and also in gauging how quickly your daylight is fading.

The interface for adding new locations is easy and convenient. Just type in a city, then select a state or country, and click "Search". Your list of saved cities is easy to edit and scrolling from one city to the next is a simple swipe left or right. My only request here would be the ability to reorder my saved cities.

"Sol" App for iPhone and iPad

At $0.99, the price can't be beat. There are a lot of sunrise/sunset time apps out there, but the simplicity of this app and the clean interface blows the rest out of the water. When I'm out shooting, I don't need a cluttered interface to get through and I don't need any extraneous information like the azimuth or angle. "Sol" is quick, clear and convenient. I highly recommend it.